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Wednesday, 13 December 1911

Senator ST LEDGER - I certainly shall not. I did go once, and that was quite sufficient for me, and, I believe, for every member of the Senate who availed himself of the same opportunity to visit the Territory. If there are any new members of this Parliament who desire to go to the Territory - and in the first place, let me say that I do not see what they can gain by going there-

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - What did the honorable senator gain by going there?

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator can tell the other members of the Parliament all. about it.

Senator ST LEDGER - The point to which I wish to direct the Minister's attention is that only new members are entitled to ask for the trip now. I further say, speaking from experience, that I do not believe that any new member of this Parliament who may visit the Northern Territory in connexion with an organized parliamentary picnic is going to acquire any information which will be of use to the Commonwealth.

Senator Lynch - The honorable senator ought to be ashamed of himself to speak of " picnics."

Senator ST LEDGER - I frankly confess that I gained 'very little information during my visit. The only gain to me as a senator representing Queensland was that the original impression I had formed as to the proper course to adopt for the development of the Northern Territory was confirmed by such information as I received. I said so here, and to that extent my visit was perhaps beneficial.

Senator Lynch - Was the honorable senator on a picnic when he went to the Northern Territory?

Senator ST LEDGER - Well, I did not stay long. I got out of it as quickly as ever I could.

Senator Lynch - But the honorable senator was there on a picnic?

Senator ST LEDGER - 1 was there for a day or two looking into certain official reports, and acquiring official information, and especially information from the residents of the place ; and, as I say, my original impression as to the right course to adopt for the development of the Territory was confirmed.

Senator Vardon - The honorable senator came to the conclusion that the railway should be made from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek ?

Senator ST LEDGER - Senator Vardonis quite wrong. I am very often found fighting side by side with the honorable senator ; and if he will wait for a minute he will see what my position in this matter is.

Senator Vardon - The honorable senator wishes- to drag the railway into Queensland. I knew what was coming.

Senator ST LEDGER - Certainly. I wish to point out that I have the impression that a line to be truly for the benefit of the Northern Territory, and really developmental, should be brought from Pine Creek right into Queensland territory as soon as possible, and the further it was kept away from Queensland territory, and the longer it was kept solely within the Northern Territory, the worse it would be for the Territory, and the greater would be the incubus upon the Commonwealth. That impression was confirmed by the information I received from every European resident of Port Darwin with one exception. That leads me to say that if the Government will persist in the proposed parliamentary picnic or, if. honorable senators please, expedition or party of exploration to the. Northern Territory, I suggest that, out of consideration for the taxpayers, it should be confined to new members, if they desire to take part in it.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I have not been to the Northern Territory. Does the honorable senator think that I should be excluded ?

Senator ST LEDGER - I have said that, if during the recess the Government will go on with this proposal for a parliamentary exploration party to the Northern

Territory, the personnel of the party should be confined, in the interests of the taxpayers of Australia, strictly to new members of this Parliament.

Senator McGregor - What does the honorable senator mean by new members?

Senator ST LEDGER - Members who entered this Parliament since the last general election.

Senator McGregor - What about other members of this Parliament who have not previously visited the Territory?

Senator ST LEDGER - It was their fault if they did not go on the last occasion. Personally, I do not think there is the slightest necessity for any expedition of the kind, whether the party be composed of new or of old members of this Parliament. Let me say that, if the expedition is to be carried out, the party should not proceed the whole of the way to Port Darwin by sea, but should go overland .through Queensland. If the party goes through Queensland via Camooweal, every member of it, whether new or old, will understand why honorable senators from Queensland, and particularly myself, have emphasized the fact that, especially in connexion with railway communication, Queensland must be regarded as the first base for the -development of the Northern Territory. I suggest then that, if the expedition is to be carried out, one of the essential conditions should be that the party should go first to Townsville, and from there by rail to Cloncurry. It will not take them more than a day to go from Cloncurry to Camooweal, which is near the eastern border of the Northern Territory. The Government can make arrangement to have the party met there from the other side and taken from the Queensland boundary to Port Darwin. The members of the party, if taken over that route, will recognise the reason for the policy of development, which has been advocated so often, by a railway keeping as closely as possible to the Queensland border, and entering Queensland territory as soon as possible. This is scoffed at by one Minister representingWestern Australia, and by another representing South Australia. But let me say that if it is proposed that the new expedition shall go by sea to Port Darwin, and' then a few miles inland to the AdelaideRiver to the Catherine, and a few other places, we already have official reports and reports from personal observations by a large number of members of this Parliament upon the country that will be visited-

If we are to have further information with respect to the Northern Territory, the proposed expedition should open up new ground.

Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator will promise to go with the expedition, we will arrange a tour which will last for twelve months.

Senator ST LEDGER - I do not wish the Minister of Defence to tempt me in this matter, or to try to make a bargain with me with respect to the policy I shall advocate. If he wishes to make such a bargain, let me say that if the Government will direct that the proposed exploration party shall follow the line of route I have suggested, I should be inclined, in my present state of mind, to consent to join the expedition, the Government taking proper precautions to see that we did not get lost, and were returned safely to this Parliament. It occurs to me that possibly I am too rash, and that an expedition might be specially organized with a view to losing me somewhere in the Northern Territory, and thus depriving the Commonwealth of my services. I think that there is no justification for the proposed expenditure in this direction, and I hope the proposal will not be presevered with. I do not care a snap of the finger for a gibe that I speak in this matter from a Queensland point of view, but I do contend that if the Government are to have another parliamentary expedition, it should go over new ground. Whether honorable senators agree that the expedition should travel through Queensland, or confine itself to the Northern Territory, it is essential that both Houses of this Parliament should know the character of the country, and it is essential for the development of the Northern Territory that we should shortly have some definite information as to its capacities and natural resources, and the best course to follow in developing them from the land as well as from the sea.

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